San Franciscans love their weekend brunches. Whether getting up late after a wild night out on the town or gathering to catch up with friends and family, denizens of the City by the Bay flock to any number of outstanding brunch spots on Saturdays and, especially, Sundays.
In a city known for its outstanding food and demanding foodies, competition for the best brunch in town is fierce. Restaurants that would rank among the best in other cities struggle and fail all the time here. But there is a bumper crop of brunch standouts; some old, some new, that keep ’em packing in and lining up outside.
Here are seven stellar San Francisco brunch spots, in no particular order:
Brenda’s French Soul Food: This ever-popular Tenderloin joint features New Orleans comfort food with a French twist. It’s hard to tell you what to try here because there are so many standouts. Their signature hangtown fry is a favorite, and crawfish beignets and shrimp and grits are real crowd pleasers. 625 Polk St. (at Eddy).
Zazie: A cute and cozy Cole Valley spot with an excellent brunch menu, Zazie is another longtime local favorite. Standout brunch items include LaMer benedict, French toast Tahiti and gingerbread pancakes. 941 Cole St. (between Carl and Parnassus).
Mama Ji’s: No list of best San Francisco brunch spots would be complete without at least one dim sum restaurant. We’ve eschewed the better-known (and much more expensive) downtown eateries in favor of this Castro upstart, which features traditional dim sum dishes with a twist. Try the shrimp shumai, Shanghai dumplings and chili noodles. It gets a bit crowded in there, but Mama Ji is an endearing hostess you won’t soon forget. 4416 18th St. (at Eureka).
Mama’s: This venerable Washington Square brunch favorite always has lines around the block. Some say it’s overrated, but the crowds speak for themselves. During crab season, don’t miss the dungeness crab benedict. Their French toast sampler is also wildly popular. 1701 Stockton St. (at Filbert).
Zuni Cafe: Known for its outstanding raw oyster selection and world-renowned California cuisine, Zuni also does one mean brunch. Their wood-fired brick oven pizzas are a real treat at any time of the day, and their burger is considered by many to be the best in town. 1658 Market St. (at Rose).
Olea: While a lot of American brunch fare tends toward the heavier side, Olea’s menu features unique New American cuisine that’s fresh, light and one-of-a-kind. Try the challah custard toast or the excellent cazuela. 1494 California St. (at Larkin).
Foreign Cinema: Another staple of the SF brunch scene, Foreign Cinema features quasi- al fresco dining and foreign films on the big screen. Faves include gourmet pop tarts and their legendary “hangover soup.” 2534 Mission St. (at 21st).